21 January 2019
Diners will love the food and service at Hai Di Lao, but the music may not be such a great aid to appetite and digestion. Photo: Bloomberg
Diners will love the food and service at Hai Di Lao, but the music may not be such a great aid to appetite and digestion. Photo: Bloomberg

Hai Di Lao: Good food, bad music

The name is all over Facebook, and at Google, it is on the list of the most searched words for the month.

Welcome to Hai Di Lao Hotpot (海底撈), the famous Sichuan-style hotpot restaurant which opened its first outlet in the city this week.

Like in any new restaurant, patrons must expect long hours of queuing up in the first three months. The average waiting time for a table at its restaurant in Guangzhou in the first month of operation was four hours, which meant customers had to line up for dinner at lunch time.

That hasn’t deterred local foodies from trooping to the newly opened branch in Mong Kok. After all, as the “Four Seasons of Hot Pot” has promised, waiting for a table is not such an ordeal lady customers get free manicure, gents get a complimentary shoeshine, while their kids romp around the play zone.

Actually, the opening was slightly delayed, but the owners can easily find an excuse – it’s still quite warm in October. 

The new two-storey outlet garnered favorable reviews from most local publications, except that they have one complaint: the pricing.

The bill, generally speaking, comes up to no more than HK$200 per head in the mainland, but it is way more expensive here in Hong Kong.

A visit to the local outlet will set you back between HK$300 and HK$400 per person, and as one reviewer opined, it’s probably better to hop on to Shenzhen, where you can save hours of waiting time and money.

In the Hong Hong restaurant, some expensive items are reasonable. Its signature mashed shrimwah costs HK$138 a portion, compared with 56 yuan across the border, but that’s because it is sourced from the mainland.

I really won’t complain too much about the price; I know the high food prices are basically influenced by the high rents restaurant operators have to pay their greedy landlords. I could also name a dozen hotpot outlets where the food is far more expensive.

One thing bothered me, though: the absurd background music. The Honorable legislators Junius Ho and Ann Chiang probably wouldn’t mind partaking of the restaurant’s spicy fare while listening to the patriotic March of the Athletes, but for many other diners the strains of martial music are just not conducive to digestion.

Sure, “love China, love Hong Kong”, but please, can’t we have some soft music to go with our Chinese cuisine? There’s Eason Chan, or Lang Lang, if you will. It’s a restaurant, you know, not the stadium or barracks.

Hai Di Lao offers great food and service, but it will please its Hong Kong fans a lot more if it does something about the music.

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Related story:

New hot pot restaurant offers Four Seasons food and service

EJ Insight writer

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